Written by Ariel Cheung, Post-Crescent Media
April 14, 2014
APPLETON — When it’s decision-making time, the Keller family asks itself one simple question: Is this what Jack and Ethel would want?
“They really see it as carrying on Jack and Ethel’s legacy,” said Mary Harp-Jirschele, executive director of the J. J. Keller Foundation. “They think of them often, and they keep their spirit alive through their philanthropic work.”
Jack Keller formed the foundation in 1990 as a birthday present to his wife Ethel, and in the 23 years since, the J. J. Keller Foundation — now led by the Kellers’ sons and grandchildren — has created a legacy of giving to organizations and programs that benefit the community and address societal problems like poverty and mental illness.
This morning, that legacy reached a new milestone, as the J. J. Keller Foundation’s $3,500 grant to Feeding America pushed the family’s total giving to more than $40 million. The check was used to distribute 30,000 pounds of food today to about 500 people in need during a Hands Against Hunger event at the Valley View Cinema.
To celebrate the foundation’s landmark, Bob Keller, president of the J. J. Keller Foundation Board, presented an additional $40,000 grant to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin during the event — nearly doubling its annual $50,000 gift to the organization.
“The J. J. Keller Foundation is such a gift to our community,” said Patti Habeck, northeast Wisconsin regional manager of Feeding America. “Not only do they provide consistent financial support to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s collaborative efforts in the community, but they are also willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer.
“Feeding America is deeply grateful to the Keller family for their constant commitment to make our community a better place to live.”
Last year, Feeding America distributed 20 million pounds of food to 1,000 food pantries, meal programs and emergency shelters — more than 60 of which were in the Fox Valley.
Since the foundation’s start in 1990, the Keller family has grown its annual giving from an average of $50,000 to $3.5 million each year.
In the Fox Valley, more than $22.4 million has been granted since 1991, with an additional $18.6 million distributed through the John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.
The Kellers also have donated more than $729,000 to the Oshkosh and Green Bay communities through donor-advised funds since 2007.
Locally, the Kellers joined forces with Affinity Health System, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, ThedaCare and Dave Vander Zanden to establish Catalpa Health, which opened in November 2012.
The foundation also has partnered with the Schmidt family and its U.S. Venture Open as a lead partner and donor to the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, committing more than $7.6 million over a 10-year period.
— Ariel Cheung: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @arielfab